If there’s one thing that Boston Bruins fans have learned in the past decade or two it is that former players can come back to bite you in the backside. Here’s where some of the past wearers of Black and Gold are now:

The Vancouver Canucks seem to be putting together a collections. Andrew Alberts has been in town for parts of two seasons, he was traded from the Bruins to the Flyers after two and a half seasons in a Bruins uniform. From there the former Bruins.com vlogger made a pit stop in Hurricanes country before moving to the pacific northwest. Early in the off season they scoffed up Patrice Bergeron’s former linemate Marco Sturm. The longest tenured German in NHL history was a victim of the cap crunch and the solid play of others when he was sold down the river to the LA Kings for not quite a bag of beads and trinkets, he was later shuffled to Washington where he rode the playoff wave with the Capitals picking up a goal and two assists. He’ signed to a one year deal. Former fourth liner Byron Bitz who was part of the Dennis Seidenberg trade is also a recent acquisition of the Canucks. All three, along with any other shades of Bruins past the Canucks pick up will be in town January 7th.

Brian Rolston was today traded to the New York Islanders from the New Jersey Devils. The now 38 year old Rolston put up 31 goals for the Bruins in 2001-2. No doubt he’ll be filling some of the leadership void left by Doug Weight. Who knows, with him, a healthy Mark Streit, and their rather plucky group of young forwards they might sneak into the playoffs this season. Last year despite only playing 65 games he had just three points less than the previous seasons 80 game total. He’ll be skating with another former Bruin in depth center Marty Reasoner who played just 19 games for Boston.

Speedy winger Sergei Samsanov is still without an NHL team. Last season in time split between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers he put up his second best point total since leaving the Boston Bruins. At thirty two, the small Russian is arguably one of the top two or three forwards left on the UFA market.

Also without an NHL contract is former Bruins grinder Steve Begin. After departing the home dressing room on Causeway he spent just two games in the NHL last season and played less than forty in the AHL. Begin is best known in for breaking a vertebrae in Marc Savard’s back when he played for the Canadiens.

Three former Bruins blueliners are also without a place to hang their skates as of yet. Nick Boynton perhaps best remembered for his contentious relationship with the then Bruins front office has spent time with five different NHL teams since leaving town after the 2005-6 season. Paul Mara who was traded to the New York Rangers for Aaron Ward, has since spent time in Anaheim and Montreal.   Shane Hnidy the twice a Bruin defender who rode to the Cup with Boston this year, is still available. Given how little he played in his stay here in Boston he may end up flashing his badge in some sort of development or scouting role in the near future.

 

When the lockout ended and the sport we loved resumed action much battered and bedamned in the public perception, no one was sure how the salary cap would work. Now we know how it’s worked around, we also know how it fails. We’ve seen artistic arrangements that let teams spread out the money for a contract well past when anyone expects the player to still be on that team or in the NHL at all. We’ve seen two contracts voided, and worse we’ve seen a hyper-inflation that is damaging the very teams it was supposed to protect.

In the six seasons since the lockout ended, the salary cap his sky rocketed from $39million and change to over $64 million.  The salary floor for 2011-12 is 20% higher than the ceiling was six years ago. Assuming teams spend their money equally well, a small market team, or simply one where hockey is not as entrenched as it is in Boston, Montreal or Toronto is now spending about twice as much to be competitive.  What part of the economy has expanded even 20% to support this? The US jobless rate has been at near historic levels nearly the whole time. A team ( at least partly through bungling ownership) has been relocated to a place its chances are only so-so , the Coyotes have been in a state of meltdown almost since they arrived from that same city that couldn’t support a team, and others have enormous amounts of rumors swirling around them.

I’m not sure anyone could track down all the issues with ownership that at least appear to be (blissfully) in the past in Tampa Bay, Columbus (a nice little city) is one of the teams that should have noticed the sharp, shiny teeth of their wolf in lease clothing and negotiated better and these are just two easily spotted issues. Even the Nashville Predators who have one the top goalies on the planet, the guy who should have won the Norris Trophy this season, and a high quality defensive unit haven’t hit a level where they are a money printing machine. The Dallas Stars and St Louis Blues are two other teams who have giant question marks in the ownership column.

When you look at the last few free agency periods they can’t help but make you think of someone who goes into a bar, gets falling down drunk, blindfolds themselves and takes home the first person to grab their arm at last call. Some of the contracts handed out bear no resemblance to the talent level of the players.  Worse, it is preventing players who are more talented from being promoted out of the AHL or major juniors or called in from collegiate play. Many of these players will stagnate if not challenged by high end skill sets.  For teams rebuilding, or trying to build their market (which by all reasonable indications takes about a generation) having the ability to take a high draft pick and put them into the NHL lineup  quickly where they can grow in front of and in turn help feed their home market is rapidly diminishing.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers have two of the most promising prospect stables of talent in the NHL, and yet between the two of them they went out and signed or traded for well over forty million cap dollars this season. Deals like Kopecky’s, which rewards a marginal third line player who’s never topped fifteen goals, in four seasons has only cracked twenty points once and is a career minus 19 with each year of his career having been spent on a playoff team, one of them a Cup winner.  With a saner cap floor the Florida Panthers might have brought up anyone of their well regarded forward prospects.

The question is what’s in it for each group who will be involved in setting up the next CBA, Without at least two of these groups pushing for it the leagues mid to long term future is at best highly unstable. The NHL could be looking at a situation like the NBA where more than half the teams are losing money, and teams are shuffled across the map on a regular basis. So what’s in it?

For building and or rebuilding teams (this includes future expansion teams) the ability to bring up prospects through the team as the foundation for a team and get them to the NHL at the earliest moment they are ready minimizing developmental costs, and preventing having to overpay free agents. It also maximizes fan appeal by leveraging the cache high draft picks have and turning it into revenue in the form of ticket sales, merchandise and TV ratings.

For established teams with a solid product if the salary floor is lowered they will transfer less money struggling teams that they can keep or reinvest in arena enhancements, training facilities, scouting staff or use towards building a replacement venue.

For players the answer is simplest of all; jobs. With the difficulty that NHL has had in finding viable owners of any sort for the last decade, the possibility of contraction can’t be ignored. While the KHL is a newer entity, one of the premier Russian club teams folded its doors last season because of what some would call a non-viable economic situation in that league. With more ownership profitability, the probability of expansion goes up, which will create more jobs and likely extend the careers of players. A stable NHL which can keep producing Bobby Ryan’s, Alex Ovechkin’s, Steve Stamkos’s, Ryan Miller’s, Duncan Keith’s, Taylor Hall’s, Shea Weber’s  and have them spread out across the continent has the real chance to expand as far as 36 teams without even saturating markets.

These, and other reasons are why the next CBA must include provisions similar to:

A fixed salary floor shall be set at no higher than forty million per year for the first five years of the agreement provided teams are in distress, or subject to a leasing agreement that would prohibit them from spending to the cap ceiling:

  • Have a NHL roster including at least 8 players who were either drafted and developed by the team, or who have played 25 or less NHL games for other teams.
  • At least 35% of the difference between the distressed floor and standard floor must be used towards buying out or buying down a lease or a facilities upgrade.

 

 

The Boston Bruins have accomplished what every hockey player in history has dreamed of. They did it in unprecedented fashion by winning three game sevens, beating the President’s Trophy Winners in the finals and going blow for blow with their arch rivals in the opening round. All of those are great team accomplishments, they speak to the togetherness of the unit.  There are however some players who just don’t get the recognition they deserve, partly because they play so unselfishly, or because they aren’t being used to their fullest.

Over the course of his career in Boston, no player has been more consistently selfless on the ice than Patrice Bergeron. It often get’s ignored, in fact I doubt the main stream media has any clue about it, but he’s got more points in less games than media darling Ryan Kesler. This is despite the season after his first concussion that was statistically ruinous for him in any meaningful offensive category.  With the sole exception of the year he spent rolling up and down the ice with Marco Sturm and Brad Boyes he’s also been far removed from playing with high end or even above average scoring talent.

In the last few years we’ve seen him yoked to expiring offensive talents, those for whom offense is a nice after thought and those who are playing with or just returning from significant injury.  PJ Axelsson for all his huge contributions away from the puck was never going to be confused for an offensive dynamo any more than he was a supreme pugilist. Mark Recchi had several awe inspiring offensive seasons, but those were long past by the time he was make his critical contributions to the Bruins Stanley Cup run. While Brad Marchand had a solid season this year, last year he spent twenty games on Bergeron’s wing and got exactly 1 point. Fellow French Canadian Jordan Caron scored three goals in his 23 games with Boston last season. None of Caron’s goals were scored after his eighth game of the season and he was eventually reassigned to Providence.

We got glimpses of the offensively oriented version of Patrice Bergeron that has been kept cloistered by injury and line-mates last season. When Krejci was sidelined by injury, Bergeron was called upon to slide between Lucic and Horton and together the three became the most imposing line the Boston Bruins have iced since the 700lb Line.  More than that he was the NHL’s First Star for January, tossing seventeen points on the board in fourteen games with a not too shabby +13 to go with it.

On a team that’s been starved for an offensive dynamo since the days of Oats and Neely, it seems odd they’ve misplayed one so thoroughly.  You’d be hard pressed to find a comparable player that is more talked about than Ryan Kesler, and Bruins fans with varying levels of longing recall Phil Kessels offensive aptitude, and yet neither of them is as effective on a pure points per game basis. Ryan Kesler is plugging along with an average of 0.595 pts per game for his career, Phil Kessel is at 0.655 despite playing the last two seasons on a bottom feeder, and throughout all Bergeron is 0.739 points per game.

Imagine the difference maker Bergeron could be if welded to offensive players of higher output for just a moment or two.  A few other facts about one of the NHL’s most underrated players; In this years playoffs, no Bruins forward was a + player in more games, no forward had more multipoint games,  no Bruins player had more assists.

Offensively speaking, we’ve yet to see the best of Bergeron for an entire season. You have to wonder what that could be if given a lighter penalty killing load and more time on the powerplay and at five on five. The Bruins have a larder well stocked with superb players short handed, Paille, Campbell, Kelly, Peverley and Marchand spring to mind at forward, and Krejci has spent time on the PK as well. If Caron or Arniel make the team they too could be integrated into the shorthanded duties.

Based on his own play, and the talent around him on the team there is no reason to believe he can’t crack 30 goals (or more) again and or  put together a fifty assist season. The seventeen points in fourteen game rampage Bergeron went on in January if projected out to a whole season works out to 99.57 points. Just trimming back his short handed minutes to allow for fresher legs 5 on 5 might spark a serious increase in scoring. With the end of the Tim Thomas epoch just over the event horizon, added offense will be at a premium and there’s no tool more valuable than the right one in hand.

 

So when last we met, I was waxing poetic about the talent on the ice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Ma., where the future B’s (they hope) had gone through Day 4 of Development Camp.  Well, the young men were back on the ice for Day 5, and there were some notables in attendance as well.  Peter Chiarelli had a great spot to watch the action from and Claude Julien, sporting some after playoff facial hair and possible golf attire, was walking the seating area during the intermission.  Unsure as to how much of the action he witnessed, but my guess is he saw quite a bit.

The day started out with, of all things, skating drills.  These were fun to watch on Day 3 and exposed some skating issues for the young guns.  Today was no different.  Everyone seemed to grasp the concept of skating forwards and backwards, staples to be sure, but coach Besa Tsintsadze had other plans.  Anthony Camara had issues skating over his stick and and also with the “stand your stick on the butt end, spin around and catch it before it falls” drill.  He fell once.  He wasn’t the only one that fell, Koko had his issues as well, but showed some good footwork making figure 8s around his stick while it lay prone on the ice.  The good news is that once again Tommy Cross showed no ill effects as he worked the drills with no issues but did appear to take one or two of them a little more slowly than the others.

At the opposite end of the ice sheet coach Essensa put the goaltenders through some workouts, and once again Lars Volden showed that he was equal to the task.  As mentioned in the previous post, he has nice horizontal movement from post to post, and also showed a strong glove hand when faux one-timers were being fired at him from 1o feet out.  Hutch and Goth looked strong through most of the drills but appeared a little exposed when shots were taken over there shoulders to the top shelf.  None of the three are going to be challenging for a starting spot on the Bruins any time soon, but Hutch looks to be heading toward a back up role in Providence with the baby B’s.

Some more mental notes…

Zane Gothberg:  Showed that he can handle the rubber being fired at him and stopped just about everything he was supposed to stop.  During the scrimmage section he did make some nice stops, but never really ventured away from the net.

Ben Sexton:  Showed some speed during both the skills and scrimmage.  Had some issues during the scrimmage but looked good on offense.  The thing with Sexton that I liked most was his ability to take direction and his willingness to ask for direction, as evidenced by his taking face off instruction from, I believe, Cunningham or Koko.

Jared Knight:  One of the most polished of the crew at camp this week.  He looked as though he was showboating a little, as was Spooner during the skating drills.  Jared is better at back-checking and defense and he is really good in the offensive zone, as to be expected.  His passing is spot on, and he has a good shot, but looks much better from in close.  He was also willing to get a little physical.

Craig Cunningham:  To me Craig didn’t do anything blatantly wrong, but he didn’t jump out at me either.  He has good speed, but had an issue finishing one timers in front of the net.  He did go into the corners and was willing to muck it up, which works for me when it comes to having a B’s mentality

Alexander Fallstrom:  Alex doesn’t seem to shy away from the physical contact, both taking and receiving it.  It appeared that he checked Camara into the stanchion (anyone say Max?) but it was later learned that Anthony put himself into the stanchion avoiding or trying to hit Fallstrom.  Anyway, Alex did appear to have some issues with the skate drills in the morning session but he showed good hustle and grit.

Brian Ferlin:  Brian showed some hustle and speed on Day 4 scrimmage.  Day 5 saw him repeat the effort.  Appeared to be having a good time on the ice, nothing glaring about his defense, would like to see more physical in his game.

Justin Florek:  He can score, and what a shot!  Fairly accurate as it hit the back of the net twice.  The line combo for both scrimmages had Florek and Ferlin centered by Spooner, and they clicked well together.  All three were vocal and knew who was supposed to be where.  He was physical behind the net and didn’t shy away from contact.

Only got a few in here, but keep an eye out for the rest of the Development Camp roster…

The arena was again well filled with fans, some dressed a tiny bit more realistically for the frigid conditions of the Ristuccia arena than others. Some of the people were the same folks who had been several days running, but there were also a lot of people who hadn’t been the last two days. Claude Julien visible with some scruff and looking like golf had a spot on the days to do list was present as was Peter Chiarelli.

While as I said before, there isn’t a ridiculous spread in talent from top to bottom, there were definitely a few players that stood out. My very top tier includes just four players, three of the defensemen but I could be easily convinced to add two of the forwards who while less well rounded or were still high end. After those six players there is a tight bunch of twelve to sixteen players who are solid but didn’t display one or two elements in the time I was there. Five years ago, and probably even four any or all of the top six players could have made the Bruins roster. This year, I highly doubt any of players at this camp crack the roster without a bit of help from the injury bug or someone suddenly demanding a trade.

From the scrimmage and shootout today:

Volden: Lights out goaltending in the shootout. He faced some truly pretty shots and got rousing cheers from the crowd.

Button: Just plain looked good. Didn’t seem to be flustered by anything.

Camara: Looked damn solid, love his work ethic and willingness to go through traffic. Think Jeremy Reich type work ethic with better wheels and hands.

O’Gara: One of the youngest players in camp, didn’t look out of place playing with some of the top players at camp.

Fallstrom: Showed a more physical presence than I’d seen from him yesterday or in past camps.

Trotman: During the scrimmage he was paired Warsofsky and got a couple really nice looks and potted a goal from the high slot.

Warsofsky: Made a neat play along the boards during an offensive zone entry. He got rubbed out along the wall, and didn’t miss a beat in spooning the pass to the slot as he slid a good ten or twelve feet on both knees. No sign of ill effcts from it. Could turn into a powerplay quarterback.

Knight: Grabbed my attention by going deep into the defensive zone and working hard at blocking shots and taking away lanes. Plays with a bit of swagger, people are either going to love him or hate him.

Spooner: He drilled Hamilton a couple times during scrimmage and special teams practice.

Hamilton: Seemed to drop back into more of a defensive role today than yesterday.

Cross: Answered any reasonable questions on his knees over the last two days with not just some of the best mobility for the bigger guys, but some of the best mobility in camp. Perhaps the thing that sticks out most even over his obvious leadership is his positioning. He appears in the right spot and shifts smoothly with it around the ice.

Khokhlachev: Was shifted to left wing from center (he plays both) in scrimmage, looked very comfortable, was again a going concern in all three zones.

Spinell: Looked comfortable at his own crease to the opponents blueline, still in college and in camp on an invite. I’m not sure where he’s sign when he graduates, but where ever it is will be getting a solid piece.

I liked the camp, and can’t say enough about the competitiveness and energy of the camp. While a few players were flagging at one point or another I didn’t get the impression anyone was mailing it in. Today’s scrimmage was much more physical than yesterdays with a few hits that were a touch more than the “light contact” you normally see.

Not so risky guesses:

  • None of the guys at camp this year make the NHL roster out of camp without multiple injuries at a given position.
  • One of the defensemen who was at camp and in the AHL at some point last year jumps the queue to be the first callup over one or more of last years call ups.
  • Two of the forwards here this year make the team in two years.
  • At least two forwards and defensemen as yet unsigned ink their entry level contracts before the start of Boston’s 2012-13 season.

 

Today was Day 4 of Bruins Development Camp. All the usual suspects were present again for some drills and some fun! Session 1 took the raw recruits through the drills they have gotten used to over the last few days. Session 2 gave the masses present a glimpse of what the future might look like, at least for some of the young men on the ice today.

Some mental notes…

Ryan Spooner: Ok, arguably, he is the Left Wing’s future binkie, but in the interest of being unbiased, he still needs to work on his back-checking. His passing is crisp, his decision making on offense is good, but still appears to be missing something on defense.

Alex Khokhlachev: I must say he has shown me something. Good hands and speed. He can move with the puck and has nice vision. Better on the back check than I first expected but still needs work, as do most of the youngsters. Appeared a little gassed at times but could have been that he’s not used to North American workouts. Had some issues with the skating drills.

Anthony Camara: Supposed tough guy and that is all I had heard about him, but he can move and likes to throw his weight around, as seen in the scrimmage. Nice shot but appears to need some work with positioning. Better on his skates than anticipated.

Dougie Hamilton: P.C. was smiling like the cat that ate the canary at the draft, and during the scrimmage we really saw why. Highlights of Hammie show him scoring, but he is great with the puck in traffic, evidenced by his weaving through 4 players making his way into the slot area from the offensive blue line. Not as powerful a shot as I first thought, but may have been holding back. Had a little trouble with positioning at one point, having to take a “penalty” resulting in a penalty shot.

Tommy Cross: first off, the knees look good. Didn’t appear to be favoring them at all. He and Button appear to be the leaders here in camp, but Cross was giving out advice to Hammie and Spinell whenever they appeared to need it. Cross and Hamilton were paired up for the whole second session and they had great chemistry. They would look real good as linemates. Cross showed good instincts and appeared to know where to be just about all the time. Not the heaviest shot but accurate as he was putting it low to the ice for rebounds.

Lars Volden: Bob Essensa appeared to be working Lars twice as hard as Goth and Hutch on Day 3, and Lars looked real good during the scrimmage. He comes way out of the crease but backs in and tracks the puck well. He’s quick down to his pads and back up to his skates again. He didn’t appear to wander away from the net much so it was difficult to assess his puck handling. Appeared to have good instincts.

I only covered a few of the prospects here as I wanted to get this out. Will cover the rest of the squad and Day 5 tonight. From the left wing’s perspective the future looks good for the hometown team. The four invites, Steven Spinell, Brett Olson, Josh Jooris, and Eric Robinson also indicate that the scouting for the B’s will show good results in the future as well.

See you after Day 5…

I was at Development Camp today for drills and scrimmage. No power-skating today for which I’m sure the players are thankful. This is the third year I’ve gone to the Bruins development camp and the range of talent is both narrower and on average higher than the first one I went to. There’s not a single skater at this camp who wouldn’t be at least an average NHL skater. Nobody was laboring or looking clumsy skating in either the drills or the scrimmage.

As tightly bunched top to bottom as the group is, I don’t think anyone looked out of place but some people stood out for one reason or another.

Hamilton: Great skating, really nice puck control in traffic, and a whole lot of speed. While a few pounds lighter, he’s probably about the same speed as Blake Wheeler. Quick shot.

Cross: Looks great. Definitely a leader in camp, the younger players listen closely. Moves well laterally, takes up a lot of space and has a very upright skating style. He and Hamilton were, against their development camp peers, the best defensive unit in scrimmage and special teams practice.

Knight: Great skater, doesn’t look to have lost any speed as he bulked up over last camp. Able to receive a pass and get rid of it again in no time. High end shot release. Took part in the penalty killing practice as well as the powerplay ones.

Khokhlachev: Did well at faceoffs, aggressive forecheck took up a lot of space at center ice as the other team was coming back with the puck, not afraid to go into the corners or traffic.

Button: Pretty well rounded, doesn’t do any thing at a level that will get him compare to Bourque, Orr or Chara, but does all things well.

Florek: Great wheels, displays high end sniper potential.

Spooner: Damn pretty passes, one of the two or three best skaters and a willing shooter.

Cantin: Skates well, shows a bit more physicality than some of the other defense men at camp. People have called him a Mark Stuart type, I don’t disagree and he skates a bit better.

Spinell: Fun to watch, one of the bigger players in camp. Went undrafted, plays defense for Miami University (Ohio) after having come up through the USHL.

Cunningham: Nice shot release, didn’t seem to miss the net much.

Volden: Showed some nice coast to coast movement.

Some pictures from today can be found in my Flickr. I’ll be present on Monday as well.

 

 

The Boston Bruins have the very unique opportunity to stay largely intact after a Stanley Cup Win, and potentially repeat. This hasn’t been done in years. Given that they finished their historic run just days before the NHL Entry Draft no one should be shocked they made no moves during the pause for breath between the two.  Since then they have made two moves. They signed a forward who is twice discarded. They traded a fourth round pick (the round both Marc Savard and Mark Recchi were drafted in) for a defenseman with a spotty off ice past who has been a minus player two of the last three seasons.

While I don’t think anyone could rightly complain about their two first round picks, neither will impact the line up this year or next. At six five and well under 200lbs Hamilton will need at least a year to bulk up enough to play at the NHL level, and likely a year in the AHL first as well.  Khokhlachev is a late 93 birthday with just one year of playing in North America under his belt. He’s likely as much as three years away unless he blows everyone’s doors off between now and the opening of the regular season. Neither of these guys, nor Corvo are likely to improve the powerplay this season.

Verdict: Loser short term.

The New York Rangers went big game hunting and pulled in the biggest name on the market in free agency. Brad Richards signed a long term deal for what is at least currently a pretty good cap hit for his talent level. The theory is clearly that he can make Gaborik and whoever ends up on his other wing more effective. The only other free agent signing was the aging Mike Rupp who will provide some physicality.  As for the draft, not much was done to correct their scoring woes. They left quite a few big names on the board in the first round, and their later picks are all likely long term prospects.

The Rangers off season is heavily marred by their having more players file for arbitration than any other team. Four players filing by itself would be bad enough. That last years two most effective forwards head the list, and that the defenseman number three in ice time joins them is potentially disastrous.  With sixteen player signed and less than sixteen million to fill the roster you have to wonder how they intend to do so. Montreal’s Plekanek, Boston’s Bergeron, and Minnesota’s Koivu are all reasonable comparisons for Dubinsky and each has a cap hit around five million.  When you add Brian Boyle who had more than twenty goals last season to the list of those filing arbitration, you have to wonder if they players themselves will need name tags when camp opens.

Verdict: Losers.

The Maple Leafs General Manager was roundly criticized for being Afghanistan rather than at the Brad Richards soiree or otherwise preparing to throw gobs of cash at one of the worst free agent markets in recent memory. Still once you roll in the premium bad team have to pay for free agent talent, and the markets paucity of it signing Tim Connolly away from a division rival works on a couple levels. First, it gets him a center with talent they should allow him to leave Kadri and Colborne in the AHL to develop another year. It adds recent playoff experience and  someone who is familiar with the system at least from the outside, while making your division rival replace someone.

At the draft, they picked up some solid prospects who mostly appear to be works in progress and don’t project towards hitting the NHL in the next year or two. In trades they jettisoned Brett Lebda while picking up another NHL experienced center, and defenseman in exchange. Given the injury history of Connolly and Lombardi it is something of a risk, but when you come right down to it all players are. Cody Franson is probably the best of the additions so far this off season.

Verdict: Winners. It’s clear that Burke is retooling slowly and he’s been pretty consistent in that, but in picking up some Franson, Connolly, and Lombardi all of whom have that recent playoff experience he doesn’t want his dressing room going into the playoffs blind if they should sneak in this year or next.

After a dismal powerplay during the post season, and an aggressively mediocre power play in the regular season, one would have thought fixing this would be priority number one. A week into free agency the power play is worse than it was not better. The inconsistent Michael Ryder has moved on. Mark Recchi has retired after a glorious career. They have not been replaced.

Michael Ryder for all his faults, was one of the top two forward contributors to the powerplay. Mark Recchi, for every minute of his age was the other. Recchi led the entire team in powerplay points. Ryder was first on the team in powerplay goals. To replace them, Peter Chiarelli signed Benoit Pouliot. The latest Habs discard had exactly one powerplay goal last year. One powerplay goal is exactly the same number that Greg Campbell had. The issue is not just his lack of production, but how bad what little production he had really is. Campbell saw a bare 17 minutes of powerplay time. Pouliot was on the ice for four times that. Campbell even managed to add an assist in his powerplay time, Pouliot, not so much.

So here we sit, a week into free agency. All indications point to Marc Savard not being on the ice to start the season. The top points producers from last years powerplay are gone. A roster spot has been filled by a chronic underperformer with less career goals than one of the players lost had just last regular season, his worst full season to date. What are we to expect? A full season going by with teams hacking away at our best players because they know the powerplay is no threat? Should we expect Claude Julien for all his other strengths to suddenly take untested prospects and make them the movers and shakers of the powerplay? And if so, which ones? The Providence Bruins last year had a powerplay that was not only the worst in the AHL but five percent more useless than Boston’s. I suppose its possible Julien will take an entirely different route from what has won him coach of the year awards both the AHL and NHL, and most recently allowed him to hoist the Stanley Cup with his team. I don’t see it, but sure, we could very well spend the year watching Maxime Suave and Jordan Caron getting two plus minutes a night of powerplay time. I think we’re just as likely to see Tyler Seguin lead the team in fighting majors at the end of the season as to see that, but it is possible.